Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Biden Vaccine for the Trump Virus

We are currently in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the past four years, we have been suffering from another kind of epidemic as well. It started in 2016 and is highly contagious. While SARS-CoV-2 is primarily a respiratory virus, this epidemic affects the brain. It turns people into unthinking mankurts with a slavish devotion to one person. That person is Donald Trump. At last night's debate, however, some people might have finally come to their senses. As soon as it was over, my phone rang with a call from a Trump supporter who told me the President was "awful." He certainly was. Last night, Joe Biden proved that he is the Trump vaccine.

Before last night, Trump did his best to portray Biden as "Sleepy Joe," someone suffering from dementia and unable to string two sentences together without help. Biden destroyed that image. He was cogent despite numerous interruptions and withering barbs. I particularly liked his direct appeals to the audience at home.

Despite Trump's unceasing efforts to put on a shit show, it was he who was on the defensive. Biden's only lapse, and it was understandable, was when he told Trump to "shut up." Sleepy Joe was wide awake.

Given the unpresidential tenor of this circus, I believe Biden should decline to participate in future debates with a boor who is only interested in what he himself has to say.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

NorCo Exec McClure on Election: "We Got This for You!"

Exec McClure: "We got this for you!" 
In recent weeks, President Donald Trump has done his best to undermine public confidence in Pennsylvania's upcoming Presidential election. His campaign sued unsuccessfully to prevent the use of drop boxes to collect mail-in ballots. It also accused Democrats of attempting to steal the election in Luzerne County, even though it's run by Republicans. To that end, Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure called a news conference yesterday to assure voters that, "in our little corner of the world," the November 3 election will be safe and secure. "You can trust that your votes will matter," he said. "Stay calm, and vote. We got this for you. Your vote will count." He then outlined the different ways to vote.

Voting at Precinct on Election Day. - If you want to vote in person at your precinct on election day, there are 154 polling precincts with 315 Express Vote XL touchscreen voting device. This voting system combines the simplicity of touch screen voting with the important redundancy of a voter-verifiable paper trail. (You can find your polling place here.) McClure is asking voters who choose this option to wear a mask. Poll workers will be required to do so.

Mail-in and Absentee Ballot Applications. - Up until October 27, you can apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot. The application form is located online. You can also get one at the voter registration office, which is now open from 8:30 am until 8 pm on weekdays and from 8 am until noon on Saturdays. Voter Registrar Amy Cozze has received and approved 63,000 applications thus far, and mailed out 30,000 ballots on Monday. She expects to have all ballots in the mail by week's end.

The ballots will come with two envelopes. One is a secrecy envelope in which you must place your ballot. That secrecy envelope goes into an outer envelope that includes a voter's declaration. This must be completed if you want your vote to count. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered elections officials to reject ballots unless they are inside a secrecy envelope. This is what is known as a "naked ballot." In addition, the Supreme Court has ruled that, if the outer envelope is unsigned with a voter's declaration, the vote must go uncounted.

Cozze had previously predicted there would be 100,000 requests for absentee ballots, but said that interest in them has diminished. McClure attributes this to "the President's rhetoric and the decisions that have been made at the upper echelons of the US Postal Service have undermined some folks' confidence in the postal system." He has confidence, however, that the postal service will get ballots back in time. Moreover, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has imposed a three-day extension on mailed ballots until November 6. 

A person who has received a mail-in ballot can change his mind and decide to vote at the polls. If he does, he must bring both his mail-in ballot and the envelopes to his voting precinct. This requirement prevents a double-vote.  The mail-in ballot will be voided and the voter will then be permitted to vote on the Express Vote XL.

Administrator Charles Dertinger, minus his
ubiquitous bowtie.  
Drop-Boxes. - In the primary, there was one drop-box location at the county government center in Easton. Administrator Charles Dertinger advised that, starting October 1, there will be four drop-boxes located at the following locations:

1) Bethlehem City Hall's Plaza Entrance (10 E Church St, Bethlehem, pa. 18018) from 8 am until 4 pm, Monday through Friday.

2) Northampton County Government Center (669 Washington St, Easton, Pa. 18042) rotunda from 8:30 am until 8 pm, Monday thru Friday, and on Saturdays from 8 am until noon.

3) Northampton County's Human Services Building (2801 Emrick Blvd, Bethlehem, Pa. 18020) from 8:30 am until 7 pm, Monday through Friday.

4) Northampton County's 911 Center (100 Gracedale Avenue, Nazareth Pa 18064), from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.

These locations correspond with the four county districts. Free parking is available at all four locations. Each drop box is monitored by surveillance cameras and will be emptied daily by Deputy Sheriffs who will be sworn in and will also complete daily forms to preserve the chain of custody. The ballots are delivered to the Registrar, who will secure them in a locked vault until election day, when canvassing can begin.

Early Voting (Ballot by Demand). - McClure noted that, if you have no desire to stand in long lines on election day and distrust mail-in ballots, you can vote now by coming to the courthouse and requesting as ballot. This is known as early voting.   After filling out the necessary paperwork, the elections office will provide you with both a ballot and a location in which you can vote in privacy.

This option is available from 8;30 am until 8 pm, Monday thru Friday, and on Saturdays  from 8 am until noon. McClure noted there will be long lines on election day and the more people who vote at the courthouse, the less people will have to stand in line.

No Need For UN Observers. - McClure dismissed Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley's request for UN observers at the polls. "We don't need UN observers in Northampton County," he remarked.

Given the numerous ways in which a person can vote, McClure there really is no excuse for failing to vote on November 3.  Council President Ron Heckman added that Council has approved close to $5 million for the best voting machines, epollbooks and added personnel.

"It's a bedrock responsibility," he said.

Monday, September 28, 2020

NYTimes: Trump Paid No Taxes Over 11 of 18 Years Examined

In an avalanche of stories about decades President Donald Trump's individual tax records, the New York Times reports the following:
Mr. Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that The Times examined. In 2017, after he became president, his tax bill was only $750.

He has reduced his tax bill with questionable measures, including a $72.9 million tax refund that is the subject of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

Many of his signature businesses, including his golf courses, report losing large amounts of money — losses that have helped him to lower his taxes.

The financial pressure on him is increasing as hundreds of millions of dollars in loans he personally guaranteed are soon coming due.

Even while declaring losses, he has managed to enjoy a lavish lifestyle by taking tax deductions on what most people would consider personal expenses, including residences, aircraft and $70,000 in hairstyling for television.

Ivanka Trump, while working as an employee of the Trump Organization, appears to have received “consulting fees” that also helped reduce the family’s tax bill.

As president, he has received more money from foreign sources and U.S. interest groups than previously known. The records do not reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

Trump dismisses the report as "fake news."

Pinsley, the People's Controller, Wants UN Observers at Election

Lehigh County's Mark Pinsley, who calls himself the People's Controller, is at it again. In addition to wanting to impose a sales and earned income tax on Lehigh County's working poor, he now wants UN observers to monitor the November 3 election. He's fired off a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating they are necessary. He knows this because he was an Army reservist. ... And he has a Master's degree.

Wha?

In a bizarre explanation on Facebook, he states the UN is a "trusted ally to the US since WWII, 75 years ago." England is an ally. France is an ally. The UN is an international organization in which the United States is a member nation, not an ally.

Donald Trump has been taken to task, and rightly so, for exaggerating the danger of mail-in voting. Pinsley is just as bad. His suggestion undermines public confidence in the integrity of our elections.

One of the biggest defenders of this proposal on Pinsley's Facebook page is Joshua Siegel, who happens to work for him.

Siegel wants to be Allentown Mayor and Pinsley wants to be Lehigh County Exec. They are the Laurel and Hardy of the Lehigh Valley.

If either of them bothered to read the Elections Code, something they obviously failed to do, they'd know that each political party can designate up to three poll watchers at each precinct. They'd know that each candidate can name two watchers per polling place. They are allowed inside the polling place and can approach within 10' of the polling table. They can challenge voters. But, and this is an important but, they must be residents of the county they are watching. Not Belgium. Moreover, a judge is always on standby for problems that might arise when the polls are open.

We got this.

Pinsley's suggestion is both uninformed and irresponsible.

Having said that, I think we should ask Wakanda.

Eight Months After Pandemic, Wolf Comes Up With Smartphone App

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which leads to Covid-19, was first confirmed in the United States on January 20. Epidemiologists now believe it is "highly plausible" the virus was actually in several cities in December.  By the time we knew what had hit us, the horse had already left the barn.

Here in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf first declared an emergency on March 6 and has since extended it twice. He was quick to shut down Pennsylvania's economy. He threw two million people out of work, but was slow to pay unemployment claims. Unemployed and gig workers waited months. Some are still waiting and are unable to visit state offices because, amazingly, they are still closed tyo the public they should be serving. 

A few days ago, Wolf announced a smartphone application called CovidAlertPA. It will alert you if you've been exposed to the virus by anyone who has also downloaded the application.  I've had a similar app called NOVID downloaded on my phone since May.

Nice to see Wolf and his DOH finally catching up with technology strategically designed to limit spread. It only took him eight months and 8,100 deaths. Instead of shutting everyone down with his sledgehammer approach. the scalpel approach of this application is what should have been used from the onset.

Molovinsky Makes the Case For Molovinsky

Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky has run for office before. He ran for Allentown Mayor as an Independent and ran against Julie Harhart as an independent. He's seeking the 183rd state house seat again, but this time it's as a write-in candidate.

Write-in candidates are almost always unsuccessful.But you never know. Here's Michael's argument on why voters in the 183rd should select him over Jason Ruff and Zach Mako.
While it has become fashionable for most candidates to refer to themselves as “Independent”, in truth they are either Democrats or Republicans, and on their respective party’s ticket. In reality, they are part of the party machines, which is why reform is an often used word in Pennsylvania that never happens.

I am a registered independent, and have fought against bad government for decades. I have published Molovinsky On Allentown for over 13 years, and have gone on the record against both corruption and waste.

Pennsylvania has the largest state house in the country, with dozens of commissions and patronage jobs. The citizens of the 183rd State House District deserve better representation, and an advocate who will really work for change.

If you want better government, you have an assignment: to write-in Molovinsky, on either your mail-in ballot or at your polling place.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Lou Hershman, Allentown's Watchdog, Passes Away at 84

Lou and Colonel Cole
A great man left us today. Lou Hershman, who served as both Controller and City Council member in Allentown, has passed away.

Lou was one of my favorite people, a true watchdog who always was looking out for the little guy. This blog is full of stories about him. He always had his eye on City finances.

He cared. Even when out of office, he attended every City Council meeting and knew exactly what was going on.

"I loved him like a brother," said Mayor Ray O'Connell. "Lou was a good guy. He didn't care about politics, but the people of Allentown."

Lou and General Grant
Lou was one of the voices in the wilderness, complaining about now disgraced Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. He was smeared on several occasions with robocalls inspired by Fed Ed, but never responded with personal attacks of his own. He was simply too classy.

In all the years I knew him, I never heard a mean word out of him.

As much as he cared about Allentown, he loved his family even more.

His pride and joy were his grandsons Cole and Grant, whom he called Colonel Cole and General Grant. He could be counted on to be at every one of their games, no matter what the sport. He was so proud of them.

I have no details on funeral arrangements, but will update this post when they are available.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

I Defeated the Angel of Death in a Hearts Game

At this time of year, I make a conscious effort to avoid driving. It's warm enough that I can bike, walk or even take a bus to wherever I need to be. Moreover, I recently lent my car to a friend whose car was totaled in an accident. But on Friday, I broke down and rented a car so I could compete in a Hearts tournament. It was in the secret underground lair of the Angel of Death, located somewhere in the western portion of Lehigh County.

His wife makes excellent turkey chili, by the way.

The Angel of Death hates comparisons to Lucifer or Satan. "I'm one of the good guys," he protests. He's still a bastard, but has a weakness. When not wielding his sickle, he's a sucker for a game of Hearts. He's even been known to travel to Las Vegas to participate in tournaments there. If your time is up and he comes knocking at your door, you might be able to delay the inevitable by challenging him to a game. I have to warn you, he is extremely competitive. But if he likes the way you play, you can buy some time. That's what I did. It's why I'm still kicking around at age 69, even though he says I'm "barely competent."

The Angel of Death is known by many names. In Revelations, he is one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, and has the handle Thanatos. We call him the Grim Reaper; Jews call him Mal'ak Ha-mashḥit; Christians call him Michael; and Muslims refer to him as Azrael. They're all wrong. But if I tell you his real name, this blog entry will never be finished.

He's funny that way.

Death always has interesting companions at the card table. Bottom-feeding bloggers like myself are a bit low brow. His guests are usually a bit more illustrious. His card companions Friday night included none other than Miyamoto Musashi and the Holy Fool.

Now Musashi, author of the Dokkodo and Japan's greatest ever swordsman, has been dead for 375 years. He might have been Japan's greatest swordsman ever, but he sucks at Hearts. We all love his pithy statements in the middle of a hand that makes no sense.

"Do not pursue the taste of good food," he said as he gulped down about 30 kiffles.

"Do not regret what you have done," he'd say after attempting to shoot the moon and totally blowing it.

The Holy Fool is very much alive, and has never won a game. But he has the misfortune of being a truth-teller. He even tells his wife and children the truth about losing. He questions everything and ends up tripping himself up. Example. On Friday night, he let it slip that he had the Queen of Spades. he got stuck with it and never recovered.

We need holy fools who tell inconvenient truths about what is wrong in the world. There are far too few of them. But they suck at Hearts.

I told you the Angel of Death has a weakness for Hearts. He has another weakness, too. Sangria, especially if mixed with fruit. The strange thing is that, the more he imbibes, the better he gets. So my primary strategy is to keep it away from him. If he's ahead, he gets very cheerful and loves gloating at his less fortunate players. If he's losing, he analyzes every hand ad nauseam to discover what went wrong. He mistakenly insists Hearts is a game of skill.

On Friday, I managed to defeat Death in one game, and thus have been spared for a few weeks. He won the second, but will be analyzing his loss for the next few weeks.

I do not go there for the card play or even the food, though it's always delicious. I enjoy the conversation. It includes local and (sometimes) national politics, books, magazines and wonderful stories. We spend more time solving the problems of the world than we do playing cards.

The Angel of Death and Miyamoto Musashi, incidentally, are going to vote for Trump. They are far from enthusiastic about it, but there it is. The Holy Fool and I are going with Biden. We have our misgivings as well, but there it is.

Friday, September 25, 2020

GOP State Rep. Candidate Scott Hough Complains About Bethlehem's Democratic "Machine"

Scott Hough
Scott Hough (pronounced Huff) is a Republican running for State Representative in a heavily Democratic district. He's getting Huffy about it too. I've called his opponent "Diaper Man," but everyone loves Steve Samuelson. He'll be very tough to beat. Hough, however, sees more sinister forces at play. He issued a news release today claiming the "Bethlehem Democratic Party Machine" is out to get him. It's all over some flack he's received over a political ad he wants to run in a City newsletter.

As a Republican, Hough is likely unaware that there is no such thing as a "Bethlehem Democratic Party Machine." That's gone by the wayside for at least the past 20 or 30 years. Precinct captains who at one time could be counted on to deliver votes have been replaced by factions and in-fighting. The last thing anyone running for office should do is rely on his local political party. Samuelson, who has been in office several centuries, knows this.

Hough complains he's getting static over two ads he wants to run in Bethlehem's newsletter, which will be published October 6. He claims that a city official recently called him to say he had to pull them or give Samuelson some time to come up with his own.

Here's what I know. The City of Bethlehem used to publish a bare-bones newsletter paid for with recycling funds. About two years ago, it decided to spice things up with more content about everything going on and what services are available. Instead of paying for it with public funds, the City hired a company to solicit ads from local businesses. There were never any political ads until Hough decided he wanted to place them.

Diaper Man
When the newsletter with Hough's ads were recently noticed by city officials, red flags went up. On the one hand, Hough is exercising political speech. But on the other, city officials provide most of the content. So there's a question whether public resources should be used for partisan political purposes. Not all that long ago, people in Pa. went to jail for precisely that reason in the Bonusgate prosecutions.

According to Mayor Bob Donchez, Hough's claim is "inaccurate." He declined further comment.

Hough also gripes that he was denied a permit for a rally he wanted to hold in July, protesting Governor Tom Wolf's shutdown. At that time, the City was in the middle of its own shutdown, and admits it mistakenly denied the permit.

I see no "deep state" conspiracy and the "machine" has been broken a long time.

What about Diaper Man? Does Samuelson want to buy an ad? Nah. He's too cheap. He's only got about three cents in his warchest and makes his staffers bring in their own toilet paper.

He's so tight with a buck that he should be a Republican.

I'm glad Hough is running. He gives voters a choice. But he's got this wrong.



NorCo COs Honored for Suicide Prevention


In a ceremony at Northampton County's Human Services Building yesterday, the county's corrections officers were honored for the role they've played in preventing suicides. During the height of the pandemic, alert guards rescued three inmates who were trying to kill themselves. Over the past 3 1/2 years, they've collectively received 46 awards for their roles as lifesavers.

Corrections Director James Kostura (far left above) noted that officers receive regular training in suicide prevention, and learn to "recognize signs and symptoms." Executive Lamont McClure (far right above), calls them "superheroes among us."

Wedged between Kostura and McClure, and from left to right are three of the Officers Officer Vincent LaFragola, Jr, is standing next to Kostura. Both he and his father, another officer, have saved lives. Officer Nicolas A Ciarcia is next to LaFragola, and Officer Latosha Woodard (sp?) is next to McClure.

Several teachers, counselors and State Rep. Michael Schlossberg were also honored for their active contributions  to suicide prevention. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Michelle Kott is BPD's New Chief


Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez yesterday announced the appointment of Michelle Kott as Bethlehem's new police chief. She started as a patrol officer in 2004.

Chief Kott is a graduate of Marian High School (2000), DeSales University (B.S. Criminal Justice 2004), St. Joseph's University (M.S. Criminal Justice 2010) and California University of Pa. (Ph.D. Criminal Justice 2019).

She rose through the ranks in Bethlehem and was a CPT at the time of her appointment as Chief.

Her appointment must be approved by City Council. If that happens, she will be Bethlehem's first female chief.

Whatever Happened to Wolf's Civilian Coronavirus Corps?

 After putting 2 million Pennsylvanians out of work with his shutdown, Governor Tom Wolf on May 8 boldly announced the formation of the Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps. He was going to form an army of contract tracers to mount a holy war against SARS-Cov-2. His cheerleaders likened it to FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps, which over its lifetime provided work during the depression. We still see their handiwork in our local parks, but I've seen no hint of Wolf's program anywhere. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Northampton County Elections - How to Fill out your Mail-In Ballot

200,000

I receive a lot of comments that simply state "Trump 2020." What they should be stating is "Trump 200,000."

According to AP, the US death toll from Covid-19 now stands at that number.

Donald Trump said yesterday that it was "a shame," but added the US is now "doing well" and that "the stock market is up."

GOP Wants to Kill Three-Day Deadline Extension in Presidential Race

Republicans are planning to ask the United States Supreme Court to invalidate a three-day extension by which mail-in ballots must be received during the November 3 presidential election. This extension was granted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week (September 17) in a trio of decisions that answer six concerns.

1) It grants a three-day extension for mail-in and absentee ballots mailed by 8 pm on election day. So long as these ballots are received by 5 pm on November 6, they will be counted. The Court estimates three million votes will come through the mail, twice the number in the primary.

2) It directs the removal of Green Party candidates for President and Vice President. Both Lehigh and Northampton County election officials can now start printing ballots, which will be going out no later than the first week in October.

3) It authorizes the use of drop-boxes at which voters can hand-deliver their ballots. Lehigh and Northampton County both maintain drop-boxes at their government centers.

4) It rejects an argument that would require county elections offices to contact voters who send in ballots without the required voter's declaration. Northampton and Lehigh Counties have both attempted to contact voters who made this mistake in the primary.

5) It holds that "naked ballots," i.e. ballots that a voter fails to place inside a secrecy envelope included with the ballot, must be rejected.

6) It concludes that poll watchers, appointed by the parties or candidates, must be residents of the polling location's county.

Basically, these rulings give half a loaf to both sides. Democrats get a three-day extension, drop-boxes and removal Green party candidates. Republicans wanted a ban on naked ballots. According to The Inky, this could cost Biden the election in Pa. Philadelphia officials have suggested that as many as 100,000 ballots could be rejected for that reason. Considering that Trump won Pa. by about 45,000 votes in 2016, this could really hurt. The court also states that ballots in which the voter makes a mistake on his voter's declaration or that he simply forgets to to sign it must be tossed. No attempt may be made to contact the voter and give him or her an opportunity to cure the defect.

Republicans are unhappy with half a loaf. They want more, and have asked the Pa. Supreme Court for a partial stay of its rulings while they take the matter up with the US Supreme Court, which now is minus Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Election Code’s deadline for receiving mail-in and absentee ballots is no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. But it also gives the Courts the authority to extend deadlines for natural disasters or emergencies. Justice Max Baer concludes that the pandemic, along with mail delivery delays, justified a three-day extension. Moreover, he rules that even ballots with no postmark at all must be accepted and counted "unless a preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that it was
mailed after Election Day." It will be presumed to have been mailed on or before November 3.

Republicans believe this is completely contrary to federal law, which sets aside one day, not three, for a Presidential election. They argue that Justice Baer
... functionally enables votes that are cast after election day to be counted if no legible postmark is placed on the envelope. This creates a scenario where votes will be cast and counted on days after election day, and is especially troubling given this Court’s sanctioning of unmanned, unsecured dropboxes in contravention of the statutorily-defined procedures for mail-in voting. The casting and counting of ballots unquestionably constitutes an “election” under federal law. Accordingly, this Court’s decision creates multiple federal election days, including after Election Day, and raises the same concerns of fraud, undue advantage, and non-uniformity which led to the creation of a Federal Election Day.
I have problems with this ruling myself. Pennsylvania's General Assembly is well aware of the problems caused by both the pandemic and a postal slowdown. They easily could have provided a legislative remedy, but decided against it. So although this is not the basis for a constitutional appeal, the Pa. Supreme Court was, in fact, applying a legislative fix. As much as I agree that such a fix might be necessary, it is not their job.

GoFundMe Started For Josh Fulmer's Family



On Saturday, I told you that Easton Attorney Josh Fulmer died on his 40th birthday. He passed away unexpectedly, leaving both a two-year son as well as another due to arrive in April. Unfortunately, he had no life insurance. His wife will have to assume the burden of paying his funeral expenses and caring for two children, one of whom will never see his Dad.

Josh was never about the money. He was more interested in helping others as a true professional. If you can spare a few dollars to help his family, I am sure it will be appreciated.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-emily-ollie-and-baby-on-the-way

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The People's Controller

Last time I heard from Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley, both he and Allentown City Council member Joshua "Dox the Mayor" Siegel were trying their best to foist not one, but two new taxes on the people of Lehigh County. Yep, in the middle of a pandemic, they were pimping hard for both a one per cent increase in our regressive sales tax as well as a 0.5% earned income tax. A $25 million slush fund would fund the "creative economy," whatever the hell that is, and of course, Allentown's coffers. These taxes would hurt the working poor, who already suffer the indignity of being represented by these elitrists. It is by far the most idiotic idea I've heard this year. Pinsley, who really wants to be County Exec, calls himself "the People's Controller." Siegel, who really wants to be Allentown's next Mayor, calls himself a "visionary." These opportunists should call themselves who they really are - Laurel and Hardy. I received an email from the People's Controller yesterday, telling me he and his family visited DC over the weekend, and "paid our respects to RBG." That's nice. Then he dunned me for money to state house candidates. He goes on to say he just contributed to state house candidate Tara Zrinski. "[S]he will keep us all safe," he says. 

Wha? 

Is she Robocop? 

These wackadoodles must have their own special club. But it's not the Democratic party I remember.

Family Visits Resuming at Gracedale

Following the completion of universal testing at Gracedale, at which neither residents nor staff showed positive results for COVID-19, the County is resuming family visits. The facility has been closed to family visits and volunteers since March 12. “While we are beyond thrilled that these visitations will be beginning, we must respectfully ask that, for the health and safety of our residents and staff, all visitors please scrupulously abide by the rules and regulations,” says Executive Lamont McClure. “Lives depend upon it.” , Gracedale has resumed family visitations in Tower 7, which has been converted for this purpose. Infectious control procedures are in place. Anyone entering the facility for a visit will only be allowed in the elevator to travel to and from Tower 7 for a half-an-hour visit with their loved one. Areas will be disinfected per CDC protocols in between visits. Family members who would like to schedule a visit can call the Therapeutic Recreation Department at 610-829-3671.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Smerconish - Pa Presidential Depends on Turnout In the Margins

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Michael Smerconish was a guest on C-Span yesterday. He weighed in on how Pennsylvania will vote in the Presidential election. Here's what he said, with his words transcribed in ALL CAPs (sorry). He believes this critical race will be decided "in the margins." This certainly means the LV.

AM LOOKING AT NOTES BECAUSE I WANT TO GET THIS RIGHT. 48.58% TO 47.85%. THAT WAS THE MARGIN IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA FOUR YEARS AGO. IT UPSET A TREND THAT HAD EXISTED SINCE 1988. OUR STATE, WE WERE PART OF THAT BIG BLUE WALL. DONALD TRUM WAS TO OVERTURN THAT. THE REFLECTION THAT I HAVE ON PENNSYLVANIA LOOKING BACK, AND I DID NOT SEE IT COMING, C-SPAN VIEWERS SHOULD KNOW, AND PROBABLY DO, THAT I WAS NOT AMONG THE VERY FEW WHO SAID THAT TRUMP COULD PULL IT OFF IN PENNSYLVANIA. I DID NOT THINK THAT HE COULD. HILLARY CLINTON DID WHAT TYPICALLY A DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NEEDS TO DO TO WIN THE STATE. SUCH WERE HER MARGINS IN PHILADELPHIA AND THE SOUTHEAST, THOSE SUBURBS, ALLEGHENY COUNTY AND PORTIONS OF THE SOUTHWEST, THAT YOU WOULD HAVE EXPECTED SHE WOULD HAVE WON THE RACE, BUT THE RURAL REBELLION, THE TURNOUT IN AREAS THAT HISTORICALLYN HAD NOT GENERATED THOSE KINDS OF NUMBERS FOR A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, IS WHAT PROVIDED PRESIDENT TRUMP WITH HIS MARGIN.

WHERE DOES IT STAND NOW? I DO NOT KNOW. THERE ARE SO MANY INTANGIBLES IN THIS RACE AND NOW THE LARGES INTANGIBLE OF ALL EMERGES, WHICH IS A SUPREME COURT NOMINATION IN THE 11TH HOUR OF THE PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST. I DO NOT REGARD IT AS A PERSUASION ELECTION FOR AS MUCH TIME AS I HAVE SPENT ON RADIO TALKING ABOUT THOSE VOTERS WHO HAVEN GONE FROM R TO D IN THE PAST, IN THE END, I DO NOT THINK THAT IS WHERE THIS RISK IS DETERMINED. I THINK PEOPLE ARE LOCKED IN. IT IS A TURNOUT ELECTION. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? 

THERE IS A LOT OF PASSION FOR THE PRESIDENT'S SIDE OF THE LEDGER. I DO NOT KNOW THERE IS SO MUCH PASSION FOR THE MEN. I WOULD SAY THE SAME THING ABOUT THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE OF THE AISLE. I DO NOT KNOW THAT THERE IS GREAT PASSION FOR JOE BIDEN. I KNOW THERE IS PASSION AGAINST DONALD TRUMP. I KNOW THERE IS PASSION AGAINST THE PERCEPTION OF WHAT THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS BECOME. I DO NOT SENSE ANIMUS ABOUT JOE BIDEN. I DO NOT MEET PEOPLE WHO DISLIKE JOE BIDEN. THEY JUST DO NOT EXIST. THAT IS DIFFERENT THAN A SITUATION FOUR YEARS AGO.YOU HAVE PASSION IN TERMS OF OPPOSING WHAT THEY THINK THE OTHER SIDE IS.  WHO COMES OUT TO VOTE? IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN. 

ONE OTHER THING ABOUT OUR HOME STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA THAT I THINK IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSCORE IS THIS. WE HAD A SIGNIFICANT SUPREME COURT DECISION IN PENNSYLVANIA THIS PAST WEEK WHICH OPENS THE DOOR FOR THE COUNTING OF BALLOTS FOR THREE DAYS AFTER THE ELECTION. ALREADY WE ARE COMING TO TERMS WITH VOTING BY MAIL IN PENNSYLVANIA IN A WAY THAT HAS NOT BEEN PERMITTED PREVIOUSLY. THIS WILL BE THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL CYCLE. WHETHER THE MACHINERY IS READY TO GO TO TABULATE THOSE BALLOTS IS AN OPEN QUESTION. I HOPE SO, BUT NOW THE PROSPECT OF COUNTING THOSE BALLOTS THREE DAYS AFTER THE ELECTION, SO LONG AS THEY ARE POSTMARKED BY 8:00 P.M. TUESDAY NIGHT, MEANS THAT PERHAPS WE DO NOT KNOW WHO WINS THE COMMONWEALTH UNTIL BEYOND NOVEMBER 3. THEREFORE, WE MAY NOT KNOW WHO WINS THE WHITE HOUSE UNTIL AFTER NOVEMBER 3, AND NOT BECAUSE OF FRAUD BUT SOME BELIEVE BECAUSE IT WILL TAKE AWHILE TO COUNT THOSE MAIL-IN BALLOTS. 

I AM NOT SURE HOW WELL JOE BIDEN RUNS IN THE NORTHEASTERN PART OF THE STATE, WHICH IS WHERE HE WAS RAISED BEFORE THE FAMILY RELOCATED ON PAPER, HE SEEMS LIKE THE IDEAL CANDIDATE TO BRING BACK INTO THE FOLD THOSE HIGH-SCHOOL EDUCATED, WHITE, WORKING-CLASS VOTERS. HE IS EMBLEMATIC OF THEM. THAT IS AN AREA WHERE DONALD TRUMP DID EXTREMELY WELL. I DO NOT SENSE THAT THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR DONALD TRUMP FOUR YEARS AGO ARE READY TO ABANDON HIM. 

 IF YOU HANDED ME A MAP OF PENNSYLVANIA'S 67 COUNTIES, I COULD COLOR SHADE IT RIGHT NOW IN TERMS OF WHO WINS WHERE. IT WILL BE JOE BIDEN FOR SURE IN PHILADELPHIA, INNER SUBURBS. IT WILL BE JOE BIDEN FOR SURE OUT WEST IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY. THE REST OF THAT MAP, INCLUDING ERIE, MY HUNCH IS THAT IT IS GOING TO BE A SEA OF RED, THE COUNTRY AT LARGE, YOU COULD PRETTY MUCH COLOR-CODE IT AS WELL. IT WILL BE RED EXCEPT FOR URBAN AREAS AND OTHER OUTLYING AREAS THAT ARE BLUE - WE KNOW WHERE THE VOTES ARE COMING FROM. WHAT IS UNKNOWN ARE THE MARGINS. THAT IS WHERE PASSION PLAYS A ROLE

Being State Rep Is a Nice Gig

Steve Samuelson, Diaper Man
If you can put up with the dreary drive along Route 78 during the few days they are actually in session, being a state rep is actually a pretty sweet gig.

There's certainly enough of them. Pennsylvania's House of Representatives comes with a whopping 203 seats. Yep, it's the largest full-time legislature in the country. Democrats have more registered voters than Republicans, but strangely, the GOP has a majority. Locally, nine state house seats are up for grabs in November.

Pennsylvania's state house is not just the largest, but third-highest paid, too.  The salary this year is $90,300. In a stroke of genius, legislators conveniently tied their salaries to the CPI so that it automatically increases every year without attracting much grumbling from the unwashed masses. In addition, our public "servants" can claim a $191 per diem, enjoy a fully paid Cadillac health insurance as well as pensions that vest in ten years. On top of all this, they can pretty much spend the donations they receive from special interests on anything they want.

Once every year or so, there'll be some scandalous article about the excessive amount of money lining their pockets, their abuse of per diems (daily allowance) and the excessive spending done by both party caucuses. A firestorm will erupt and all kinds of promises to reform will follow. But in a day or two, the public will move on to something else as shrinking newspapers no longer have the manpower for any sort of in depth investigatory journalism.

And so the abuse - I call it corruption - continues. A part-time local elected official gets more scrutiny than the guys and gals from the land of midnight payraises.    

It's easy to see why so many want to stay there forever. It beats working for a  living. 

In the meantime, the state minimum wage has been frozen at $7.35 per hour since 2009

Here are the eight state house seats up for grabs.   

District 22: - This is center city Allentown. Pete Schweyer has held the seat since 2015. He faces a write-in challenge by fellow Democrat Enid Santiago, who he defeated in the primary by a scant 55 votes.  She completed a candidate questionnaire. He did not. Schweyer's funding comes mostly from unions. Hers is grass roots. 

District 131: - You could call this the Saucon Valley district, and it is split up among three counties. Incumbent Justin Simmons is stepping down. Democrat Kevin Branco, a personal trainer, is pitted against Republican  Milou MacKenzie, mother of State Rep. Ryan MacKenzie. Branco completed a candidate questionnaire. MacKenzie did not. She had no problem raising $58,000 in a contested primary, with much of her warchest coming from her own family. 

District 132: This district is Allentown's west end, with just a touch of S Whitehall Tp. It has been represented by Michael Schlossberg since 2013. Though unopposed in the primary, he still managed to spend $48,000 of the $67,000 he raised, including $3,000 for blow-outs at McGrath's Pub and Vault 634. Frustrated by Governor Tom Wolf's shutdown of most of the state's economy, LV Grand Prix business owner Michael McCreary launched a last-minute campaign for the GOP nod, and succeeded.  How well he does in a heavily Democratic district will be answered on November 3. Schlossberg has failed to respond to a candidate questionnaire. McCreary has yet to even be listed as a candidate by Ballotpedia, and thus has no questionnaire to which to respond. 

District 133: This is the pierogi and halupki district. It extends from West Bethlehem and Fountain Hill and makes its way north through Catty and Whitehall to Coplay, where the church ladies made pierogis until Covid came. It has been held by Jeannie McNeill since 2018. She was elected after her husband, union powerhouse Danny McNeill unexpectedly passed away. McNeill has no problem raising money from trade unions, where her late iron worker husband was widely respected and admired. She raised $47,000 in the primary and spent $22,000 even though she had no opponent. She has one now. David Molony is a perennial candidate for that seat. Though affable, it's no longer possible to take his quixotic quests very seriously. He himself has raised only $250. Neither candidate responded to a candidate questionnaire.

District 135: This district includes the Northampton County portion of Bethlehem as well as a slice of Bethlehem Tp. It has been represented by Democrat Steve Samuelson since 1999. His biggest accomplishment in office has been his annual diaper drive, after which he personally delivers these poopie pants to the Salvation Army. Notoriously frugal, he has raised just $3,600 in his re-election bid. Republican Scott Hough is running on a message of "personal responsibility and less government involvement." For some reason, I think that message will play poorly in a Democratic City so concerned about global warming that it's ready to regulate how often you can fart. It will be hard to beat Diaper Man. Hough did  fill out a candidate questionnaire. Samuelson did not. 

District 137:  This bizarre district starts in Palmer Tp an winds its way through Nazareth and all the way to Upper Mount Bethel. Republican Joe Emrick has held this seat since 2011. He's financed by blue bloods like L Annderson Daub and Olav Sandnes. Transparency has never been his strong suit, and he hates scrutiny of any kind. He ran a dirty campaign against Amy Cozze two years ago, accusing her of sending "foreign material" to the Nazareth police. It was glitter. Cozze and a business colleague using glitter while making decorations for some event in Nazareth. Glitter tends to stick to everything, and it got stuck to a few paid parking tickets. Democrat Kate Brennan, a former probation officer and tipstaff, is waging an uphill battle, but is known to be tough. 

District 138: This district starts in Bethlehem Tp and makes its way north through Hanover Tp and into the northern tier. Incumbent Marcia Hahn is retiring, leaving an open seat coveted by both Democrat  Tara Zrinski and Republican Ann Flood. This is probably the most conservative district, yet Democrats' most liberal candidate is the nominee. Unlike most candidates, Zrinski actually did fill out a questionnaire but perhaps should not have, She points to U2's "One", which she claims is about tragic breakups and the feeling of aloneness, as the song that most recently got stuck in her head. She then goes on to recite the lyrics.
Is it getting better 
Or do you feel the same? 
Will it make it easier on you now? 
Etc.
In contrast to Zrinski, Flood is sane. I do not know her favorite song. 

District 183 This is a boomerang-shaped district that includes the northwestern portion of Northampton County and northeastern portion of Lehigh County. It has been represented by Republican Zach Mako since 2016. Having seen Mako in two debates, I can say without hesitation that he's as dumb as a box of rocks. He misses a lot of votes, too, with his other job in the service. Democrat Jason Ruff, who was beaten by this box of rocks two years ago, should ask for a few debates. 

District 187: This district extends from Kutztown to North Whitehall. It has been represented by Republican Gary Day since 2009, and he easily raised $33,000 in the primary. His $500 contribution to Dean Browning's failed Congressional race should tell you he is a conservative Republican. Michael Blichar Jr is the Democratic nominee. He was crushed two years ago, and unless Day is caught in bed with an altar boy, I do not expect that to change. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

RIP: Josh Fulmer

Josh Fulmer, an admired and respected lawyer from Easton, passed away unexpectedly on Thursday night. His obituary is located here. He would have turned 40 on Friday, Family and friends marked the occasion by releasing 40 lanterns and 40 blue and white (PSU) balloons. His widow called him an advocate "for justice, for the wrongly convicted, for those without a voice, and for civil and human rights." He was all that and more importantly, was a person with a highly unusual quality. He listened. It made no difference whether you were a President Judge or the least of the low - people that most of us look at without really seeing. He listened.

Lots of people have law degrees. Few are lawyers. Josh was a lawyer.

Friday, September 18, 2020

McClure: Small Business Matters

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure told County Council last night that the small business grants recently awarded were a "lifeline" to local small businesses, and has received numerous communications from them expressing their gratitude.

Northampton County has awarded $8,548,641 in CARES Act money to 651 small businesses located within its borders. Most received $15,000.

Shit, I should have applied. I may not be a business, but I am small. I've even been called petty.

McClure also said that, as early as next week, in-person visits might begin again at Gracedale. He said there was a scare in which several employees and one resident tested positive, but a more invasive test determined there was no virus. He said that staff is doing everything it can to prepare the facility do that residents can once again see their families.

He indicated that 382 tests have been performed done by Coordinated Health at its drive-thru during the months of July and August, and that 3.5% are positive. "It's still out there," he remarked. He wants to continue the testing, but on asymptomatic individuals who work at local colleges and for the county.

Ballot By Demand

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure voted yesterday. Let's say you hate waiting in line but are concerned about applying for a mail-in ballot. You can do what he did. It's called ballot-by demand. You can walk into the elections office, fill out an application, receive a ballot and vote then and there. No fuss, no muss.

McClure told County Council yesterday that, starting October 1, the courthouse will be open from 8 am until 8 pm for people who want to vote that way. If you've already applied for a mail-in ballot, you'll have to wait for it.
______________
* The Pennsylvania Supreme Court yesterday extended the time in which mail-in ballots must be received by three days so long as the ballot is post-marked by 8 pm an election day. In effect, it re-wrote the law.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

NorCo Dashboard Shows Spike in Covid-19 Cases


Northampton County's Daily Dashboard shows a spike in new Covid-19 cases. I am unable to state the reason with certainty, but it does coincide with the recent re-opening of local schools.

On a positive note, there are no recent deaths.

Dees: Pen Argyl Schools Close For a Week

Matt Dees has numerous roles. He's West Easton Borough Council President and a very informative blogger. He's the nemesis of West Easton Wingnut Tricia Mezzacappa. But perhaps his most important role is as a school bus driver for differently abled children. In that capacity, he makes the rounds at different school districts. He reports 14 confirmed cases at NorCo school districts, and adds Pen Argyl schools have closed for a week due to two cases. He complains that, as he drives by parks, he sees that both children and their parents are unmasked.

Personally, I think that outdoors, masks are unnecessary unless you are within 6' of another person for more than 15 minutes.

McClure Wants $2.5 Million From CARES Act For Hazard Pay, IT

Executive Lamont McClure is asking Northampton County Council to approve a transfer of $2.5 million from CARES Act funding to the county's general fund. This is to reimburse the county for $621,485.10 in hazard pay for county workers at the jail, Juvenile Justice Center and in Human Sources. Gracedale workers were also paid hazard pay, but funding for that comes from a different source. The remaining $1,878,514.90 is to reimburse the county for IT expenses related to remote work and teleconferencing options, including a mobile broadcasting center.

If approved, this will leave the county with $2-3 million.

NorCo Council Considers 10 More Temps in Elections Office

Northampton County Voting Registrar Amy Cozze asked Council for permission to hire as many as 10 more temporary employees to work in the elections office. This office is dealing both with in-person voting and is also processing a huge number of mail-in ballot applications. Those positions were already funded, but Council needs to approve their creation.

Cozze said she expects ballots to go out next week, and that the office will be manned until 8 pm. She is waiting for a ruling from the Supreme Court on Green Party candidates. The official count begins at 7 am on election day, unless the law changes. So far, there are about 59,000 mail-in ballot applications. She said she has hundreds of back-up pollworkers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

538: Pa Will Determine Election

On Monday, I told you NorCo is poised to vote again for Donald Trump. Since 2016, Democrats have added just 324 voters to their ranks while Republicans have added nearly 4,000. On Tuesday, I pointed out that 11.3% of NorCo's registered Democrats are considered inactive, meaning they have not voted in five years. Why does all this matter? After all, NorCo is just one county. Biden has an 8-point advantage in the latest Monmouth University poll. It matters because Biden's national lead means nothing in and of itself. He wins only if he wins in the electoral college. And guess what? According to 538, "Pennsylvania is by far the likeliest state to provide either President Trump or Joe Biden with the decisive vote in the Electoral College ... ."

From the article:

"Campaigns have also been forced to reconsider their conception of Pennsylvania’s political geography. The conventional wisdom was that western and eastern Pennsylvania were Democratic and central Pennsylvania was solidly Republican (memorably summarized by Democratic strategist James Carville’s quote that, between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was just Alabama). While this may have been true (at least politically) in, say, 2000, working-class western and northeastern Pennsylvania have slowly but surely been getting redder. As a result, Pennsylvania’s new geographic divide is between southeastern Pennsylvania and the rest of the state — in other words, the parts of the state that are culturally Northeastern and the parts that are culturally Midwestern or Appalachian."

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Democrats Have High Percentage of "Inactive" Voters

Yesterday, on the basis of statistics maintained by Pennsylvania's Department of State, I told you there are currently 8,748,726 registered voters in the Keystone State. This includes 217,849 in Northampton and 239,619 in Lehigh County. But this number is deceptive. It includes both active and inactive voters. If you subtract inactive voters from the total, the number of registered voters becomes smaller.

What are inactive voters? These are persons who have not voted over the past five years and who have failed to respond to inquiries about their registration. Though still eligible to vote, they might be required to produce ID or verify their address at the polls.

Statewide, 442,563 of 4,125,889 Democrats are inactive. That's 10.7% who have failed to vote for at least five years. In NorCo, 11,229 (11.3%) of 99,253 registered Democrats are inactive. In Lehigh, 11,365 (9.8%) of 115,862 registered Democrats are inactive.

How about Republicans?

Statewide, 252,464 of 3,376,463 registered Republicans are inactive. That's just 7.4% . In NorCo, 6,580 (8.4%) of 77,532 registered Republicans are inactive. In Lehigh, it's 5,347 (6.5%) of 81,677. Though Democrats still have a numbers edge, it's hardly overwhelming. Moreover, it appears they lack the enthusiasm of the GOP.

US District Ct: Gov' Wolf's Pandemic Restrictions Unconstitutional

Regular readers of this blog know I have long objected to Governor Tom Wolf's abuse of his "emergency" powers to put Pennsylvania out of business. That emergency, incidentally, still exists. Though Wolf has eased up on his ruination of Pennsylvania's economy, he could re-impose a lockdown tomorrow. A Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, divided largely along party lines, has agreed he has this power But yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge William Stickman IV, a Trump appointee, ruled in a 66-page opinion that Wolf's shutdown orders and other pandemic restrictions exceed his constitutional authority. This decision will almost certainly be appealed.

It's a well-written opinion. In addition to his constitutional conclusions, Judge Stickman has some interesting observations:

1) Though Pennsylvania has been willing to impose quarantines when necessary, William Penn himself limited their use because of his belief they had a disproportionate impact on the poor. His experience in London is that families with plague cases were boarded up for 40 days with no way of taking care of themselves. Instead of being provided food, homes were decorated with a red cross and the plea, "Lord have mercy on us." (Just as plague families were without means, millions of unemployed Pennsylvanians waited months for unemployment relief.)

2. The response to this pandemic was far more severe than the measures taken in response to the Spanish Flu. As this blog itself has noted, the measures taken in response to the Spanish Flu were far less draconian and of much shorter duration.

3. Even now, Governor Wolf's stay-at-home order is still in place. It has merely been suspended and could be reimposed tomorrow.

4. "It appears as though the imposition of lockdowns in Wuhan and other areas of China - a nation unconstrained by concern for civil liberties and constitutional norms - started a domino effect where one country, and state, after another imposed draconian and hitherto untried measures on their citizens."

Governor Wolf's measures were well intended and imposed to protect Pennsylvanians. But good intentions are no justification for violating the Constitution. "[T]he greatest threats to our system of constitutional liberties may arise when the ends are laudable and the intent is good - especially in a time of emergency. In an emergency, even a vigilant public may let down its guard over its constitutional liberties only to find that liberties, once relinquished, are hard to recoup and that restrictions - while expedient in the face of an emergency situation - may persist long after immediate danger has passed.

And so it has happened here. Piece by piece, civil liberties have been shredded away with ever changing metrics and no seeming end in sight.


Monday, September 14, 2020

Judge John Morganelli Becomes an Independent

For decades, John Morganelli has been known as one of the Lehigh Valley's top Democrats. Though he supported many Democratic issues, he was conservative on others. Basically, he's never been in lock step with either party. Now that he's a judge, he's changed his party registration from Democrat to Independent. Here's how he explains it:

"Throughout my entire career as District Attorney, I have been independent of both major political parties . I have never walked in lock step with the rigid ideology of either party because my views sometimes align with one party on a particular issue and sometimes align with the other party on a different issue. Now that I am a Judge, I felt that it was the right time to officially become an Independent . Judges should judge matters solely on the law , with independence and free from any alliance to a particular political party or a political philosophy."

So far as I know, Morganelli is the sole NorCo judge who is unaffiliated with a major party.

I am basically an independent myself. The only thing that stops me from registering as such is that independents lose the ability to vote in primaries. This enables both parties to cater to their extremes.

NorCo Poised To Vote For Trump Again

According to the most recent data maintained by Pennsylvania's Department of State (9/7/20), there are 8,748,726 registered voters in the Keystone State. These include 4,125,889 Democrats, 3,376,463 Republicans, 840,816 no-affiliation and 405,558 minor parties. So Democrats have a registration edge. But they did in 2016, too, when Donald Trump was elected President, At that time, there were 8,646,238 registered voters consisting of 4,172,826 Democrats, 3,280,202 Republicans and 1,193,210 unaffiliated or minor party voters. There are fewer Democrats now than there were four years ago, when Trump won a state he should have lost. Despite all the claims about a blue wave, Pennsylvania is increasingly a purple state.

In the Lehigh Valley, the data shows that Lehigh County Democrats have improved their position while Northampton County Democrats are losing ground.

In 2016 in Lehigh County, there were 109,353 Democrats, 78,062 Republicans and 37,293 others. Now there are 115,862 Democrats to 81,677 Republicans. Both parties have gained, but Democrats have done slightly better.

The situation is the reverse in Northampton County. In 2016, there were 98,929 Democrats, 73,638 Republicans and 39,026 others. After four years of Donald Trump, the Democratic registration has barely budged. There are 99,253 registered Democrats, an increase of just 324 voters. In the meantime, Republicans have slowly but surely been increasing their numbers. They now have 77,532 registered voters, an increase of nearly 4,000.

The fact that Democrats have done so poorly at attracting new voters in a blue collar county is a bad sign for those who think NorCo is going blue this year. The numbers don't lie.

Democrats need to take a good hard look at their priorities. The party of the working poor has increasingly become a clique of elitists who have no understanding what it means to have no job.

Where's The Subway?

At this time of year, I do a lot of walking. In addition to exercise, I walk to the stores every day. I've lent out my car, so I've also been depending on my bike and LANTA to get where I need to be. I enjoy it quite a bit, to be honest. Yesterday, I was walking down Main Street to visit Giant and a fellow walking in the opposite direction stopped to ask me where the Subway was. I thought he meant the restaurant and began to tell him, but he interrupted me, "No, I mean the subway, the subway. Like we have in New York."

"This is Nazareth, not New York. There is no subway. No rats, either."

Actually there are, but most of us are two-legged.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Would You Take Pre-Election Vaccine?

I told you several weeks ago that I've volunteered to be a Covid-19 vaccine guinea pig. As I'm sure most of you would agree, we bloggers are pretty much nonessential. Thus far, no one has contacted me even though I'm relatively certain I am human. Here's my question, and it's one that was also asked on C-Span radio this morning. If a vaccine is announced and available before the election, would you take it?

We know that President Donald Trump pressed health officials to approve convalescent plasma therapy so he could announce it on the eve of the Republican convention. Although this treatment might actually be helpful, its effectiveness was overstated by a President who lied to the public about Covid-19, the worst thing public officials can do in a pandemic.

So if a vaccine is announced, would you take it?

Although I have no trust in anything Trump says, I would take a vaccine if it were recommended by Dr. Anthony Faucci.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Family Learns of Suicide From Ce-Ce Gerlach Video

Allentown City Council member Ce-Ce Gerlach, who would like to be Mayor C-Ce Gerlach, walks the streets of Allentown more often than a hooker. I guess they both aim to please. Nearly every hour, she's shooting a video about this or that injustice. But she's in hot water over one of her latest video productions. It was the sad aftermath of a suicide by a man who jumped from atop the PPL parking garage. She rushed over and began using this incident to support one of her numerous rants about a lack of city services. In her rush to draw attention to herself, she never stopped to think that the family of this jumper would learn about his death by seeing her video. She's been getting slammed, and rightly so, by her own Black Lives Matter base.

Local activist Rodney Be dropped his "Fuck the Police" bullhorn long enough to trash her. "Yall will do anything for clout #FcknSleazeBalls Someone just lost there [sic] life & yall tryna build a following #FcknSleazeBalls."

Gerlach eventually deleted her video and explained:
I'll take this head on and respond since this isnin reference to my live video from tonight. I apologize. I am sorry. A man from the ATC texted me about someone we knew who had jumped from the parking garage. I arrived about 2 hours later. My intentions were not to exploit but to bring awareness of the lack of services in the city. Having people watch a live video on fb isn't clout to me. The purpose of going live was to talk about the systemic problems and the value of each human life. In retrospect I see how the timing of me doing so was not good. I didn't know that me going live would be breaking news for anyone and for that I am deeply sorry. I intentionally did not mention the name or identifying factors out of respect but clearly this wasn't enough. I'm not sure what else to say other than I am sorry.
Some people accepted what she said, but not the family of the suicide victim.
my family wasnt notified and you went live how dare you.  A 17 yr old child had to see it on live.  And has to go claim his father's body and you decided for your satisfaction to go live.  I lost all respect and will never forgive you.  But your days are numbered in office I promise you that..
Justan Parker, King of LV Black Lives Matter, dropped his bullhorn to say. "Super sad and disgusting." He later added, "Election season coming up and we're starting to see true colors."

I hope they're black.

Another big mouth, Hasshan Batts lackey Positive Kyle Lassiter, said, "I can't not [sic] believe what I saw today ppl Using a bad situation to gain exposure."

Maybe she should call herself Me-Me instead of Ce-Ce.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Trump and the Politics of Fear

NorCo's GOP is hosting the St. Louis couple who brandished firearms at protesters on June 28. They will be at Fairview Park in Palmer Tp on September 17.

Law-and-Order Trump is stoking fear again. In 2016, it was Mexican rapists. Now it's Antifa, blacks and Communists. This won't work in the cities. It may in the 'burbs and rural America.

NorCo Jail and Gracedale Remain Covid Free

I hesitate to write this out of fear I could be jinxing them, but there are no current cases of Covid-19 at either NorCo's jail or Gracedale. The jail has had no positive cases since July. It currently houses 514 inmates. At Gracedale, there are no cases among 514 residents and 700 staff. The home is inching towards outdoor visitation and permitting some volunteers to return.

Lehigh County's Elections Office Will Have Extended Hours

Lehigh County's Government Center and its Voter Registration Office will have extended hours for a two-week period between October 19th and October 30th. The building will also be open on Saturday, October 24th and Saturday, October 31st from
9am-1pm for drop-off.

A complete list of hours are as follows:
Monday – Friday 10/19 – 10/30 8am – 8pm
Saturday 10/24 & 10/31 9am – 1pm
Tuesday 11/3 7am – 8pm

Reserved parking will be available in front of the Government Center on 17 S 7th St, Allentown during these times. Two spots will be accessible on 7th Street and two spots will be available on Hamilton Street.

Lehigh County warns that a voter can only hand in his or her own ballot to the Voter Registration Office. Any bulk submissions or a ballot that is not your own will not be accepted.

Mail-in ballots are scheduled to be sent out the last week of September or the first week of October.

Lehigh County is still awaiting confirmation on the approved state ballot that will go into print. This is due to the pending status of the Green Party presidential candidate.

Additionally, ACT 77 allows for registered voters to vote at the Voter Registration Office at any time after mail-in ballots have been distributed. If a resident applied for a mail-in ballot but has not received their ballot in the mail, they may instead vote in-person at the Voter Registration Office. The deadline to apply to vote at the office is Tuesday, October 27th at 5pm.

No word yet on extended hours for NorCo voters.

NorCo Residents Being Scammed by "County Park Attorney"

From Northampton County: The Northampton County Sheriff’s Department has received inquiries about someone claiming to be a “County Park Attorney” calling residents and alleging that they have been issued a ticket for violating park rules.

These calls are a scam. The Northampton County Parks department does not call people about tickets.

Report any suspicious solicitations to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office at 800-441-2555 or scams@attorneygeneral.gov

Today is Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

According to a county news release, suicide affects all ages and was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2018. Over 2,000 Pennsylvanians die from death-by-suicide every year. Americans disproportionately impacted by suicide include Veterans and other military personnel and workers in certain occupational groups like construction, the arts, and design, entertainment, sports and media fields. Suicide negatively impacts the health of others and the community.

NorCo Executive Lamont McClure established a suicide prevention task force in 2018 to, in his words,"make certain our citizens know we are here, we care and that they should never hesitate to reach out.” It is spearheaded by Human Services Director Sue Wandalowski, and has determined there is a need for more training on suicide awareness.

The Suicide Prevention Task Force will hold an award ceremony to recognize Northampton County residents who’ve contributed to suicide prevention on September 24th.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Wolf: Covid-19 Risk "Moderate" in LV

According to Governor Tom Wolf, the chances of contracting Covid-19 are "moderate" here in the Lehigh Valley. Lehigh and Northampton are lumped in with 45 other counties.

The other counties considered a moderate risk are Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Butler, Cambria, Chester, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Franklin, Huntingdon, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northumberland, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder and Somerset.

Wolf has placed these 19 counties in the "low" risk category: Bedford, Bradford, Cameron, Carbon, Clarion, Elk, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Jefferson, Juniata, McKean, Perry, Pike, Potter, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango, Warren AND Wyoming.

The chances of contracting Covid-19 are considered "substantial" only in Centre and Columbia Counties.

It is unclear what metrics Wolf used to arrive at these conclusions.

Using the state's own data, for the 7-day period ending September 3 (the latest 7-day period for the scary "Early Warning" dashboard), York County reported 398 new cases out of 3,102 tests for a positivity rate of 12.3%. For the same 7-day period, NorCo had 49 new cases out of 2,361 tests for a positivity rate of 2.08%.

York has 8 times as many new cases and 4 times the positivity rate of NorCo, but York and NorCo are both "moderate"?

York is Wolf's home county.

Wolf has released data on where people are contracting Covid-19, suggesting it might be at a restaurant. But there are problems with that data. Only 44% of those questioned answered whether they had even been to a business establishment. He goes on to conclude that businesses are a cause of community transmission, but I would be a bit more concerned about the lack of response to some important questions.

Gracedale Offering $250/Week to CNA Trainees

CNA trainees are being paid $250 a week as independent contractors, says Gracedale Administrator Jennifer Stewart King. Previously, they were unpaid during the four weeks of training they must undergo, which King said makes the position a "hard sell." The CARES Act, however, authorizes the County to pay for this type of training, which King hopes will lead to more CNAs.

CNAs start at $15.07 an hour.

Census as of September 3 was 536, still well below the target of 670. This drop in residents, however, appears to have had no effect on finances. For the first six months of 2020, Gracedale has $50 million in revenue and $47 million in expenses.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Trump is Terrible, But is a Victim of Unfair Reporting


I'm hardly the person from whom to seek advice on journalism. I'm a bottom-feeding blogger who gets stories (and sometimes dinner, too!) by dumpster diving. But you might be surprised to learn that I apparently have higher standards than Jeffrey Goldberg, Atlantic's widely-respected editor-in-chief. On September 3, exactly two months before the election, he published a highly inflammatory report about Donald Trump's 2018 refusal to visit the cemetery of 1,800 Marines who died in Belleau Wood. The soldiers who died there were supposedly "suckers" and "losers." Goldberg relies on four anonymous sources. His story is unfair.

I get contacted all the time by people who wish to remain anonymous. I am often provided good tips. But before I go ahead, I want to know two things: (1) How damaging is this story to the target? and (2) How reliable is my source?

If the story reveals some kind of malfeasance, I will sometimes write a story. If it is highly inflammatory, I will refuse to write a story even if I believe the anonymous accusation.

This just happened to me last week. I was provided highly damaging information about a public official. It came from an anonymous email. The target strongly denied the charge. I decided against writing a story.

Four people could contact me and accuse a public official of all sorts of abhorrent behavior that is subsequently denied. Am I supposed to write, "Public Official A denies beating wife despite four anonymous accusers?"

I think that would be irresponsible.

The Goldberg story strikes me as unfair for the following reasons: (1) It is highly inflammatory; (2) It is about an incident that supposedly occurred two years ago, but is being published two months before an election; (3) The sources involved refuse to identify themselves; and (4) the accusation appears to be refuted by Trump's seeming desire to build up the military.

This accusation could very well be true, but all this story does is give Trump more ammo with which to argue he is being treated unfairly. This is sensationalism, not journalism.

History will judge, but I consider and have said Trump is the worst President this nation has ever seen. Here's a thought. Why not report on what he all know he has actually said and done? Just yesterday, in a rambling speech from the White House, Trump's demagoguery consisted of statements like "Biden is a stupid person."

In the meantime, 189,000 Americans have been killed by the Covid-19 pandemic that Trump minimized, while unemployment is at 8.4%.

Write what you can prove. That's bad enough.

Friday, September 04, 2020

DiLuzio Out in Bethlehem

From Mayor Bob Donchez: Today I accepted the retirement letter of Bethlehem Chief of Police Mark DiLuzio.

His retirement is a result of the consequences of his recent re-posting of an offensive Facebook post.

The United States is in the midst of a national discourse on important issues of systemic racism, police conduct and social injustice. The City has been actively engaged with citizens and groups to deal with these numerous and complex issues. Chief DiLuzio has been an important representative of the City in this effort.

The credibility and effectiveness of leadership in government is always paramount. These are times when those qualities are critical to managing the numerous challenges we are facing.

Chief DiLuzio has accepted that his standing in the community has been compromised. This has happened at a time when the citizens of Bethlehem justly expect the effectiveness of their Chief of Police to be beyond reproach.

I, and many who know him, will not allow it to outweigh our appreciation for the Chief’s dedication and service to the City of Bethlehem for the over 30 years.

Deputy Chief Scott Meixell will immediately assume the duties of interim Chief of Police.

NorCo Council Unanimously Awards $4.6 MM in CARES Act Grants to 349 Small Businesses

At their September 3 meeting, Northampton County Council voted unanimously to award $4,616,397.91 to 349 small businesses located within the county. Most grants were for the maximum $15,000, and are listed below. This is in addition to $4 million in grants previously awarded.

The Greater LV Chamber of Commerce,m which processed these applications, received an administrative fee. But Council member Kevin Lott reported that the Chamber has poured that money into its Main Street grant program. Thus, every penny awarded will fund small business.

NorCo Council Awards $4.6 M... by BernieOHare

Thursday, September 03, 2020

NorCo Has Processed 48,496 MIBs

Before June's primary election, Northampton County received a record 36,849 mail-in ballots (MIBs). In preparation for the general election on November 3, that record is on pace to be shattered again. Northampton County's Elections Office has already processed 48,496 MIB applications. This is in spite of President Donald Trump's criticism of this method of voting. His bombastic barrage has undoubtedly dampened enthusiasm, but many voters remain undeterred.

Of the 48,496 MIB applications, 31,827 (65.6%) are from Democrats. Republicans account for 11,232 (23.1%). The remaining 5,437 (11.2%) are from third party voters or independents.

Voter Registrar Amy Cozze had predicted there would be 100,000 MIB applications, but that was before the attacks and lawsuits.

“For those who want to vote at the polls, we plan on fully staffing 154 precincts with 315 voting machines,” said Executive Lamont McClure. NorCo has avoided consolidating voting stations, which would increase the wait time.

Updated 7:30 am to correct an error concerning the number of MIBs in the primary.

Easton PD Plagued by 16 Shootings Over 14 Weeks



Easton's Police Department has been busy this summer with 16 shootings over the past 14 weeks. It has also been hampered by neighbors who refuse to cooperate. "This is not gang-related, said DA Terry Houck at a news conference on Wednesday. He labeled the shooters as "thugs and punks" out to settle scores. "What is ultimately going to happen here is a child is going to be killed in the cross-fire," warned Houck.

The shootings in Easton are part of a trend seen this summer in many of the nation's cities.

What's the reason? Is it the hot summer? People cooped up in their homes, unable to work as a result of Covid-19? "If I knew the answer to that, I'd be a rich man," said Detective Ben Mastrofilippo. What he does know is that residents are unwilling to get involved.

Det. Mastrofilippo filed simple assault and recklessly endangering charges yesterday against Elaine Ennis Tiasha, age 30, over a West Ward shooting on August 17. Ironically, she is the person who was shot.

Tiasha was suspicious that another woman, only identified as N.S., was having a clandestine affair with her child's father. N.S. denied this, but Tiasha felt she had been disrespected and began to beat up the much smaller N.S. She was in fear for her life and retrieved a Ruger EC9S from her fanny pack. This weapon was legally purchased and N.S. had a concealed carry permit. Tiasha tried to grab for the gun, but was shot in the chest. This ended the assault. N/.S. immediately said, "Call 911!" and surrendered her handgun to police when they arrived.

The altercation occurred on the 900 block of Ferry Street, on the front porch of a home owned by N.S.' parents.

Although police obtained a 49-second video of the shooting (you can see it above), it did not come from a neighbor. It instead came from N.S.'s sister. It had been given to her anonymously.

"This needs to be a lesson," Houck said of the shooting. He surmised that Tiasha, who is both 80 pounds heavier and 6 inches taller than N.S., was looking for a fight. "This is why you don't do stuff like this."